The head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog says his monitoring program in Iran is no longer “intact” after Tehran refused requests to repair cameras at a key facility, creating the possibility the world will never be “able to reconstruct the picture” of what the Iranians have been doing. In an interview with NBC News, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi says he’s been unable to establish the type of direct communication with Iran’s government that he had before a new hardline government run by President Ebrahim Raisi was elected in June.
The husband of U.K. charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained for more than five years in Iran, has gone on a hunger strike again after a court decided she has to spend another year in prison. Richard Ratcliffe started his fast on Sunday outside the British government’s Foreign Office in central London. He plans to maintain a “constant vigil” by sleeping in a tent outside the building’s main entrance in an effort to pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure the release of his wife and other detained dual British-Iranian nationals, Amnesty International said.
A Turkish bank must face criminal charges that it evaded sanctions against Iran by processing billions of dollars of Iranian oil revenue, an appeals court ruled Friday. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman. An indictment returned in 2019 said the bank illegally moved about $20 billion in Iranian oil and gas revenues. It also said the state-owned bank sometimes disguised money movements as purchases of food and medicine so they’d qualify for a “humanitarian exception” to sanctions. A lawyer for Halkbank declined to comment on the ruling.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
France on Friday urged Iran to curb nuclear activities of “unprecedented gravity” as U.S. and European envoys met to discuss efforts aimed at reviving the troubled 2015 Iran nuclear deal. U.S. envoy Robert Malley joined counterparts from France, Britain and Germany at the meetings in Paris, at what the French Foreign Ministry called a “critical time” in efforts to salvage the accord. “It is urgent and crucial for Iran to end the activities of unprecedented gravity that it is conducting in violation of the (agreement) and to immediately resume full-fledged cooperation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre said in an online briefing.
Russia’s lead negotiator at stalled multi-power talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal said Iran’s demand for a guarantee from the U.S. government that it won’t quit the landmark accord again is “logical and justifiable”. Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s ambassador at the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, was responding to a report by Washington-based think tank, Quincy Institute, that President Joe Biden had refused to provide Iran any assurance that the U.S. won’t abrogate the agreement for a second time during his tenure.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Iran says it needs billions of dollars in investments to boost production from oil fields it shares with Iraq along its southwestern border. “We need around $11 billion in investment to develop the second phase of the North Azadegan and Yadavaran oil fields, as well as the South Azadegan and Yaran,” Mohsen Khojastehmehr, appointed in September as the new head of the National Iranian Oil Co., said in a statement on the company’s website. The financing, should it come through, would help add more than 1 million barrels of oil per day to Iranian crude output from its shared fields with the neighboring Iraq, Khojastehmehr said without elaborating.
Iran’s oil refining capacity has declined by 11 percent in 8 years and its share of global refining is just 2 percent, despite its large reserves of crude oil. Meanwhile, its regional rival Saudi Arabia has been investing billions of dollars in setting up new refineries with the ability to produce more feed for petrochemicals, a sector that aspires to make up for projected reductions in the consumption of fossil fuels in coming decades. Iran Student News Agency (ISNA) in an article expresses hope that the new government of President Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) would pursue plans to expand Iran’s refining capacity. But the biggest hurdle would be Iran’s lack of resources for making the necessary investments amid a deep economic crisis. Amid US sanctions and deep disputes with Western countries, the chance to secure foreign investments is almost non-existent.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the governing U.S. Democratic party was ultimately responsible for a recent spate of bombings targeting Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Khamenei said the “same democratic group” of people running the U.S. government today had previously admitted to creating the Islamist extremist group, Islamic State, without giving more details. He said the terrorist group was behind recent attacks targeting Afghanistan’s Shiite minority.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Despite widespread opposition in Iran, lawmakers are working to approve a plan that would severely tighten the government’s control over the Internet. The plan, titled “Protection of users’ rights in cyberspace and organizing social media,” has been discussed for almost a year in the parliament, supported by hardline lawmakers but widely criticized in Iranian society. On July 28, lawmakers entrusted the next decision on the bill to the parliament’s special cultural commission. Parliament tasked a special committee to review it on September 6. If that commission approves it, the parliament can set a time for its temporary implementation, and there will no need to approve it again in a public session.
An angry man slapped the new governor of an Iranian province in an unusual security lapse. Authorities have not yet determined a motive for the attack on Brig. Gen. Abedin Khorram. The new governor has taken the post in Iran’s Eastern Azerbaijan province, and previously served in the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. Security forces didn’t apprehend the man until shortly after he had walked on stage and slapped Khorram, much to the shock of the audience. "I do not know him of course, but you should that, although I did not want to say it, when I was in Syria I would get whipped by the enemy 10 times a day and would be beaten up," Khorram said upon returning to the stage to speak. "More than 10 times, they would hold an armed gun to my head."
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Since the beginning of 2021, Iran has begun working on forming the Hashemiyoon military brigade in Syria, allowing only Shiites to join it. The newly formed faction, which began operating in mid-August, has joined the other pro-Iranian factions in Syria, including Zainabiyoun Brigades, Fatemiyoun Brigade and al-Husseinoun Brigade. The Hashemiyoon Brigade has engaged in military operations in Syria, with offices and sites spreading through the cities of al-Bukamal, al-Mayadin, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa in eastern Syria. New offices were also opened in Aleppo and the countryside of Damascus.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that the Arab nations who have improved ties with Israel have “sinned” and must reverse course. Four nations – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan – agreed to normalize ties in 2020, as the “Abraham Accords” led to Israel’s first treaties with Arab nations since reaching an agreement with Jordan in 1994. Jordan and Egypt were the only Arab nations to have existing diplomatic ties with Israel before the 2020 agreements.
One of Iran’s most senior leaders threatened on Sunday that if Israel attacked its nuclear program, Tehran’s response would require the Jewish state to spend “tens of thousands of billion dollars” to reconstruct the country. Tweeting in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, commented on reports last week that Israel has approved a budget of some NIS 5 billion ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program.